'Cruel Feeling' Sets In as Cup Just Out of Reach
BOSTON, MA - The scoreboard read 2-1 Bruins, with a minute and 30 seconds to go until a trip to Chicago for Game 7 was on tap for a shot at the Stanley Cup.
How quickly emotions can change.
Fourteen seconds later, the Blackhawks found a way past Tuukka Rask. Seventeen seconds after that, a shock wave hit the rafters of TD Garden, and reverberated throughout the entire arena, when Chicago took the 3-2 lead.
As the Bruins, city of Boston, and fans all over woke up Tuesday morning, the reality was surely still sinking in.
Bruins' defenseman Andrew Ference, a veteran who had already been on both ends of a Stanley Cup Final - an exuberant Game 7 win over Vancouver in 2011 to claim Boston's first Cup in 39 years; a devastating Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay when he was with Calgary in 2004.
He has always said the loss stays with you longer. 2011's win helped ease the pain, but 2013's defeat won't leave him and the Bruins anytime soon.
"We know it’s going to be close and you know how thin the margin is between winning and losing and we’ve been on the right side of that coin as well," said Ference, one of the Bruins to speak with media following the gut-wrenching loss, with tired, watered eyes.
"That’s what makes this sport great, but it’s pretty devastating when you’re on the wrong side of it for sure."
"It’s a cruel feeling. You play a tight game and obviously guys gave an effort where everybody can look at themselves in the mirror and be proud of what they did," he added.
"It’s just a sickening feeling…I didn’t even see the tying goal. I know the winning goal you get a bounce like that and a high tip and it bounced perfect. You feel helpless when you see it go in, so yeah, it sucks."
A few stalls down in the locker room, Captain Zdeno Chara sat, stone-faced and silent, waiting for the media to crowd in around him.
So often Patrice Bergeron is considered the heart and soul of the Bruins, a homegrown 'B' who, for a decade, has only known Black & Gold. With Patrice as the heart and soul, Zdeno is the backbone.
"It’s a tough way to lose, tough way to lose a game, tough way to lose a series," said the Captain.
Head Coach Claude Julien was later asked about his Captain's game and play throughout the series. Did Chicago find a strategy that wore him down?
"You have to give them credit for putting a strategy together, but at the same time, Zdeno is one of those players that unfortunately was not 100 percent. So he battled through it, and that's what I mean by being proud of those guys."
Still, Coach didn't want to disclose injury information - for him, it wasn't the time to be "making excuses." Both teams in the Stanley Cup Final are faced with injuries.
"This is not a time to make excuses. They've got injuries, too. As the series went on, talking about since the start of the Stanley Cup [Final], we had some injuries. And again, it's hard to keep guys out. They want to play through it, and some guys were able to do that."
"I think the biggest challenge for me was probably these last few games starting with a full roster but not being able to end with it. Somewhere along the way, you have to shorten your bench because you don't have four lines and players were getting hurt either at the beginning or middle of the game, so that was probably the biggest challenge."
Jaromir Jagr, one of those players, left a power play shift early in the first period and did not return to the ice in that frame, missing three more power plays for the Bruins. He tried to go in the second, could not, and then was able to come back for the third period. He clearly was not close to 100 percent.
"Playing hurt is part of it, and our guys did that, and that's why I said earlier you've got to be extremely proud of those guys," said Coach.
"It's going to take a little while before we can realize the accomplishment we had in making it to the Final again, but right now, it doesn't feel good."
Coach wasn't alone.
"It felt like we had it, you know? It feels like we lost it," Krejci lamented as he calmly spoke to reporters. "We had a Game 7 in front of us. It was right there. I felt we played a pretty good game, and we lost it."
"I don’t know what happened. It just did, you know? But it is what it is."
"You never want to lose a game like this. You never want to lose a season like this. But we did. It’s not even a point to say that it’s going to make us stronger in the future. It sucks that we lost. It’s going to hurt for a while. That’s about it."
What was Tuukka feeling, following his first Stanley Cup Final?
"Nothing," said the netminder. "Just a tough way to finish the season."
"It was a battle. Everybody left it all out there. We had some guys playing through injuries, lost Soupy [Gregory Campbell] there, but that’s how playoff goes. You have to battle through those. This year, we weren’t fortunate enough to stay healthy and have a full squad. But still, it’s no excuse. You just have to battle through it."
The finish happened so quickly, so gut-wrenching.
"It was scrambly up top and you could see the shot coming and there were some guys, there was some traffic in the high slot," said Ference, when asked by a reporter about what he saw on the bounce. "It hit somebody. I don’t know who it was, so I try to think me and Tuukka [Rask] both were playing there, playing the shot and it just cruelly tipped perfectly for a rebound to their guy."
"So it’s a helpless feeling looking at it as good as we played, but that’s the way it goes. We’ve been on the other side of that coin."
"It’s the sport. We’ve done that to teams and it happens. You give up goals. It makes you want to throw up at the end because it’s not for lack of effort. You saw what the guys put in tonight was, it was incredible. It was a good effort, and you do all you can and I don’t think there’s any regrets, but the difference between winning and losing sometimes is pucks that hit something."
"They worked hard. They got themselves in the right positions and they got the win. It’s a cruel way to end the season for sure."
"It’s an awful feeling when you lose, but at the same time when you have a group of guys after the worst loss that you can imagine you can still look at your guys and know that they gave everything," the defenseman went on.
"That’s the thing - there’s no consolation in losing, but you can still be proud of the effort that you put in and not have regrets with not putting anything more into it because I think guys were tapped. They put what they could and gave it all they could and we came up short."
Ference's defense partner, Johnny Boychuk, was closeby. He is as tough as they come, but was notably distraught.
"You can’t really describe it. As a player, it’s probably one of the worst feelings you can get when you are up by one goal with a minute and twenty left and somehow you lose the game. It’s just like a total shock."
So, how long will this stay with the team?
"Forever. I mean you are going to remember forever. You remember winning it, but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen."
"I’ve never felt anything like this," said Tyler Seguin. "I’ve never cried for as long as I’ve known until tonight. It sucks, but I love the guys in this locker room, and I’m going to miss them this offseason, but I’m going to make sure I’m working even harder for next year."
The close-knit nature of this team makes it even tougher for them. They fought for each other, for the spoked-B, for Boston. There's a theme that comes from joining this locker room - every player soon finds out it's not just a team, but a family.
"This team, this is the tightest team I’ve been on. We love to play for each other, and we are very tight in this room," said defenseman Dennis Seidenebrg.
"There’s no excuses, we could have won this game."
"We’ve overcome a lot throughout this year and in these playoffs, and at the end, I think we can be proud."